The Senses of Spring

BaseballSpring is a time of reawakening. New animal babies are born and buds pop out on the trees. I found that it is the time for my senses to reawaken, too.

At my son’s first baseball game of the season last night, I was acutely aware of the smell of the freshly cut grass while I watched the boys hold their caps over their hearts for the National Anthem. I could hear the boys laughing from the dugout, and the crack of the wooden bat successfully hitting the ball. My daughter was not watching the game, but was busily digging in the dirt next to the bleachers, bringing me handfuls of craggy, bumpy rocks. And we finished the evening off with a tasty celebratory frozen yogurt.

This inspired my idea for a writer’s exercise, or game to play with your kids (when you can’t possibly play another game of iSpy).

Family Version: At the park, on a car ride, at a sporting event, waiting for the doctor/dentist, taking a nature hike, or anywhere else you might be, challenge your family to describe where they are with all five senses. It may inspire some interesting conversations about WHY the doctor’s waiting room smells like bubble gum.

Writer’s Version: During similar situations as above, or sitting on the porch having a cup of coffee, or people watching at the mall (or wherever else you are), take out your journal and see if you can describe the environment with all five senses. Extra bonus points for the more descriptive and creative you are with your answers. This exercise also works as a “jump starter” for your writing day, or a break exercise when you are stuck while writing. Reflect back on a situation, and see what sensory descriptors you can conjure up. Don’t worry… even if “the smooth stickiness of peanut butter on the roof of my mouth” never makes it into any of your manuscripts, it WILL open your mind to the things that might pass by unnoticed.

Feel free to share your examples and what your senses revealed to you. Happy Spring!

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Need a Quick Diversion?

Have you every just needed a moment to escape your thinking? Whether you are writing, or worrying, or trying to puzzle something out, sometimes we need a way to step back and refresh. For me, when I’m mentally stuck or really deep into something that I can’t see the way out of, I try to think about something else. Not procrastinate – just a brief diversion. Just enough to come back a few minutes later with a refreshed perspective. Think of it as a mental spa treatment!

So what’s a good diversion? How about:

  1. Write your grocery list for the next week’s meals
  2. Sit down and do a puzzle with your child/grandchild/friend
  3. Write something. If you are taking a break from your writing, write something else completely different: a poem, a list, or a writing exercise.
  4. Call someone that you really enjoy talking to. If they are not home, leave them a message about why you enjoy talking to them.
  5. Step outside and take a deep breath. Pick some flowers/weeds or go looking for signs of Spring.

Today, let’s try #3. Here’s a writing prompt to try:

In one of my current works in progress, I am writing about a brother and sister who discover a doorway in their secret hideout in the hall closet. It takes them back to 1983. I have fond memories of the 1980’s, so I am thoroughly enjoying writing all of the atmosphere and observations. Not to mention the parachute pants, big hair, and leg warmers.

Think back to a time of fond memories for you. Write a paragraph or list of the things that immediately come to mind about that time. It could be events, things, or people. Try to include all five senses: what did it smell like, what did it look like, what is a taste you remember, what could you feel or touch, what did you hear? Don’t get caught up in writing something formal. You can write this as a list, as a letter to yourself (now or then), or as a stream of consciousness.

The goal is to put yourself in that place and time, just for a few minutes. Just to let your mind take a big “ahhh.”

Then close your words up into your journal, stick them in your wallet, or tuck them in your bag. Put them somewhere for you to find when you need another moment to step away.

What time would you escape to in your mind? Please share with us in the comments!